Pat Ramsey MLA for Foyle, SDLP, says the PSNI are dealing with a back log of Access NI checks of some 2,200 applications.
AccessNI is a criminal history disclosure service, job offers are often dependent on a successful check.
“It is most worrying” added the SDLP MLA for Foyle and party spokesperson on Employment and Learning, “that the PSNI are only now processing some forms submitted in August of 2014.”
“While I welcome the fact that many of these checks are completed promptly the revelation that almost 800 people have been waiting in excess of two months is simply not good enough.”
Mr. Ramsey raised the issue of police background checks with Justice Minister David Forde after being asked to intervene on behalf of a number of constituents.
Mr. Ramsey said: “One taxi driver has been unable to work for months as his Access NI checks have not been completed. He, through no fault of his own, has been forced off the road and out of work.”
In answer to Mr. Ramsey’s enquiries the Minister, revealed that 1,333 applications have been pending with the PSNI for less than 25 days, 61 applications between 25 and 39 days, 91 forms were submitted between 40 and 59 days ago and 798 forms have been with the police for longer than 60 days. (Figures correct for end of March.)
Mr. Ramsey stated: “This means that 800 people who have been offered jobs or career development opportunities have been left in limbo for months while these, albeit vital checks, are sitting on a PSNI desk.
“The fact that this has been revealed to me shortly after the PSNI declared an underspend of some £14 million beggars belief. Prudent financial accountancy is to be welcomed by all public services but this should not be to the detriment of those with valid job offers. I am representing two constituents whose forms were submitted some six months ago. This cannot pass as acceptable.
“Employment is hard to secure yet due to delays within the processing system hundreds of people, many of whom have been offered jobs on condition of satisfactory Access NI checks, are still sitting on benefits.
“It is incredibly difficult pill to swallow the Ministers admission that ‘it will be several months before the backlog can be reduced significantly.’”
“I have already raised the matter with the Department of Justice and have requested an urgent meeting with David Forde in order that a way forward might be found.
“The Ministers comments that the PSNI have a recovery plan in place, with steps being taken to reduce the number of outstanding cases, including the deployment of additional staff, is to be welcomed but more needs to be done.”